'Unicorn' meteor shower could produce rare storm Thursday night

This Aug. 12, 2016 photo shows a meteor streaking across the sky in Spruce Knob, W. Va. Astronomers say a dramatic meteor shower might happen this Thursday at 11:45 p.m. ET (Source: Bill Ingalls/NASA via AP)
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(WDBJ/Gray News) - Thursday night's Alpha Monocerotid meteor shower could produce a meteor outburst, meaning multiple shooting stars per second could stream across the night sky, according to WDBJ meteorologist Brent Watts.

Astronomers have been watching the conditions closely, with the outburst of shooting stars possible late Thursday evening as the earth passes through pieces of debris leftover by a comet. What's interesting is that astronomers don't know which comet this is.

The last time this happened under similar conditions was in 1995, and it was phenomenal according to stargazers. Many recall hundreds of meteors per hour streaming across the sky during that outburst.

While there's no guarantee it will be exactly the same this time, scientists believe this event may be very impressive, with several meteors visible per second during the peak.

How to spot the meteor shower

Timing will be critical if you're looking to see the meteor shower. You need to look up during the peak as there will be a very short window for the meteors to enter the atmosphere. The outburst is expected to start around 11:45 p.m. ET, but it's best to get out early just in case.The event will last for about 45 minutes to one hour.

Tips to spot the meteors

Find a dark spot, away from city lights and look toward the east-southeast.

Be patient. Meteors travel extremely fast and are random. You may wait for several minutes and see nothing, then see several shooting across the sky at once.

Why are they called "unicorn" meteors?

The source of the Alpha Monocerotids is still unknown, however, the appear to originate from the constellation Monoceros, which is the Greek name for unicorn.

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